"Admittedly, there is a need for quite a high level of detail in models intended or skirmish action where 1 model = 1 man. But in games where one model is supposed to represent 33 men, the real aim is not to show a set of immaculate individuals, but to convey the impression of a whole seething unit. Painting skills are well within our grasp which will allow large numbers of men to be painted [relatively] quickly to give a good impression of whole units, where far more time and energy might be expended in making each one look brilliant, but far too strikingly individualistic. Moulding and casting philosophies could well be linked in with this type of altered emphasis. . ." -- Paddy Griffith, "Variations on a Theme", Miniature Wargames #2.
This echoes how my own painting has evolved over the last 30+ years. When I began back in the mid-1980s, I spent considerable time trying to add as much detail as possible to my 15mm Napoleonics. Ah, callow youth. It is hardly surprising that it took forever just to finish one unit of, say, 20 figures much less an entire corps like the kind I aspired to at the time. In more recent years, and with my switch to large units of 25-30mm 18th century figures, I have gradually become more comfortable with the idea of painting neatly and to the best of my ability, but I leave certain small details to the imagination. Not only does the bare bones approach keep me sane, but I actually have managed to paint quite a few large units of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. . . if not in a particularly rapid way, then at least to eventual completion during the last almost ten years.
Figures like those by RSM95, Holger Eriksson (above), Suren/Willie, and Spencer Smith lend themselves well to this more practical style of painting as do the more detailed castings by the likes of Minden, Fife&Drum, and Crann Tara, which still look good even if you chose not to paint in and highlight each gaiter button sculpted onto the castings. My one exception to this rule concerns command and special one-off vignettes where it is fun to lavish a bit more time and attention on groups of three-five figures that will, very probably, be examined more closely than units of infantry, for example, that feature 60-80 figures wearing more or less identical uniforms and kit.